Thursday, December 3, 2009

Melting Stones

Evvy redefines being one with nature. As a mage, she has the power to communicate with non-human spirits, elements and beings.

Fourteen year old Evvy was sold by her parents as a slave when she was six years old and talks of how she was beaten by masters, stolen from, and kicked around while living on the streets. She was eventually pursued and found by other mages because of her magic, and is now a student of the rarest kind, a stone mage. Because of her unique powers, she is asked to accompany Rosethorn, a plant mage and teacher-like character, to Starn Island where plants and animals have been dying off mysteriously, and the water has become acidic. Her trusty companion, Luvo, is the heart of a mountain, a talking rock who provides great wisdom to Evvy and the others, due to his old age. He is as old as the mountain he comes from, but has only been separated from his mountain and free to interact with humans and assist Evvy, for two years. If you look closely at the cover of Melting Stones, shown right, you can see his purple and green “body” strapped to her back. You can also see in the original cover seen below, in which he has human-like features.
Evvy must travel across large bodies of water to get to Starn Island, which is difficult for her because she is so far from rocks and minerals. Once she arrives there, she feel uneasy because the Earth’s “pulse and heart” seem rapid, and its stomach “belches” from underneath the surface. She must now put her powers to the test and find out what is causing the plants and animals on the island to die. With the power of astral travel, Evvy can leave her physical body, and interact with rock, minerals, and the spirits that inhabit these natural landforms. By doing so, Evvy finds it is the magma spirits trying to break through the surface of the Earth; they are causing the Earth’s pulse to quicken. Just like mountains have hearts, volcanoes too are composed of living spirits. Because of her unique specialties as a stone mage, although only an apprentice, it is up to Evvy, with the help of Luvo, to save the island and its people from the impending doom of a natural disaster.

Evvy is a hard-headed character who at times seems difficult to get along with. She is egocentric and headstrong, but very smart. However, as the novel goes on, Evvy grows and learns and comes into her new found reresponsibilities. She originally thinks she is better than others because of her magical powers, but later feels humbled by her ability to help others. She must unravel clues about what is causing the plants and animals to die, and through this timely process comes into herself. To an adult reader, it is seemingly apparent that it is volcanic activity causing the issues because of all the scientific geologic clues presented to Evvy throughout the book. The personification of natural elements and landforms is interesting and unique.

Although a fantasy novel, Melting Stones explores real-world issues like child slavery and the traumatic effects of war. The reader learns that prior to the happenings of this novel, Evvy was tortured and scarred during a war in her native country, and her fears of human contact in this novel seem to be a result of these events. It also employs a diverse cast of characters, with the human characters being from different and colorful backgrounds. Evvy's attitudes and feelings also represent typical teenage angst about who she is and who she will become. It also seems to follow a loose pattern seen in many YA books of something troubling occurring, events leading up to what is or how to solve the problem, an episode of proving oneself to authority figures or loved ones, and a “save the day” moment of clarity. Most interestingly, Tamora Pierce wrote this novel to be published as an audio book and on Playaway, before publishing it in print a year later. This book is recommended for ages 8 and up, but I believe it would be most suitable in a middle school classroom.

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